‘More than a kick’: Tayla Harris’ statute at Federation Square acknowledges the fight for workplace safety, writes Caroline Grainger.
The unveiling of Tayla Harris’ statute at the Federation Square last week struck a cord with me. It’s magnificent. See it here. It’s a statute of an athlete: agile, strong and focused. But the statute isn’t just about Tayla as an athlete. It’s about her as a woman in her workplace. She says: ‘This statue represents #morethanakick, it symbolises a moment in time that can be remembered as a catalyst for change, a stand against online harassment and a reminder to women and girls that we deserve these opportunities.’
For those unaware, on 18 March of this year, Channel Seven posted a photo of Tayla on Twitter showing her in full flight, kicking a football while playing for Carlton in the AFLW (the same image that is now depicted in bronze). But a short time later, it removed the post with an explanation as follows: ‘The image attracted a number of comments, some of which were inappropriate and offensive. As a consequence we have removed the image and the comments.’
Uproar ensured, rightly so. Here was a woman in her place of work that had been subjected to bullying and harassment on the basis of her gender and rather than the perpetrators being called out and Tayla being supported, she was…. deleted.
Tayla was having none of it. One day later, Tayla posted the same picture with the comment: ‘Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals.’ It was her message to online trolls, calling out sexist abuse.
The message was so clear, and received so much support from Tayla’s colleagues and the wider community, that we now have this magnificent statute.
Predictably, there have been some disappointing opinions voiced following the unveiling of the statute. Malcolm Blight was reportedly ‘outraged’ by it. He is said to have called it ‘ludicrous’ and ‘mystifying’. He questioned the difference between a male and a female being trolled online and named three (presumably) male colleagues, Sam, Ben and Will at his radio station as having been trolled online. He even went so far as to suggest that they also deserve a statute.
In my view, Malcolm’s got some things right. Workplace safety means ensuring that everyone is safe in their workplace and is not abused while at work. But the part that he’s missing is that the type of abuse that Tayla experienced was sexist in nature. Certainly, men also experience sexual harassment in the workplace but as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges, it disproportionately affects women. In fact, the Australian Human Rights Commission have previously reported that 1 in 5 women experience sexual harassment in their workplace at some time.
The thing about Tayla’s response to the abuse and Channel Seven’s actions, is that she called out the behaviour and showed us all the power in doing so.
It is inspiring to see pioneering women and their ambition to make a difference in their respective communities. It’s important to #dowhatyoulove but it is equally important that people are safe in their workplace and Tayla’s stand against the abuse that she faced, and the subsequent support that she has received, means that she has made her workplace safer for her colleagues. And that, along with her impressive kicking action, is to be applauded.